Tips for Getting your French Driver’s License

If you are planning to move to France or you have just arrived here, you may be wondering if you can legally drive in this country.  The answer depends on your situation, and on where your permit was issued. If you have a driver’s license from another European country, it is valid in France.  As a diplomat, you may be able to drive with your foreign license for duration of your mission in France.  If you are not in one of these cases, you can drive for one year with your valid foreign license and translation of this document, but no longer than the first anniversary date of your residence.

If this applies to you, you will want to ensure you have obtained a French driver’s license before your first year of residence is up. Here are four tips for facilitating that process:

  • Check for reciprocity. You may or not be able to exchange your foreign license for a French one. You can check this by viewing the list of countries, states (in the United States) and provinces (in Canada) that have reciprocity agreements with France. If your license has been issued in one of the reciprocal countries or states, you are eligible to exchange that license for a French one within one year of residing in France. We can check on that for you.
  • Arrive in France with your valid foreign license. If your license has expired in your home country, you will need to reactivate it before you leave. If you are American and can obtain your license in one of the states with driver license reciprocity, you will make life easier for yourself when you arrive in France. If you have a license from a country where you do not have nationality, additional documentation will be required. It is best to obtain the necessary documentation prior to leaving your country of origin.
  • Initiate the process early. Timing is very important here. Although you have one year after your arrival to obtain a French driver’s license, we do not advise that you wait for month 10 to initiate the process, as it does take some time to put together all the paperwork and the application process is long.
  • Get all paperwork in order before you leave for France. Some of the paperwork required to obtain a reciprocal license needs to originate from your country of origin, so be sure to take care of this paperwork before you leave for France.

In the event you are unable to exchange your driver’s license, either because there is no reciprocity agreement between France and the country that issued your license or the deadline for license exchange has expired, you will be required to take the French driver’s test. If this happens, there is a silver lining to this cloud. The driver’s training course teaches how to drive through those tricky roundabouts and park in tiny spaces, so you will likely learn to be a better driver in France!

After you have successfully passed the multiple-choice exam, you will need to complete at least 20 hours of road lessons. The instructor will attempt to correct all the bad driving habits you may have developed over the past 20 years, and it may not be fun! But you will learn to drive better, at least for the time it takes you to successfully pass the driving exam!

Be reassured to know that if you do not speak French, there are international driving schools with solutions for non-French speakers. Seek the advice of a relocation company like ours. The administrative process is complicated, and it varies from one administrative district to another. You will save a lot of time and worry by putting this process in the hands of specialists.

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